Zimbabwe; Genetic Modification Poses a Threat to Indigenous Seeds BYLINE: The Daily News BODY: Indigenous seeds in the Southern African Development (Sadc) are threatened with extinction following the introduction of the genetically modified (GM) technology and international property rights supporting the patenting of

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Oct 23, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Zimbabwe; Genetic Modification Poses a Threat to Indigenous Seeds



BYLINE: The Daily News



BODY:


Indigenous seeds in the Southern African Development (Sadc) are threatened with extinction following the
introduction of the


genetically modified (GM)
technology and international property rights supporting the patenting of
indigenous seed varieties by


Western countries.



Charles Nkomo, acting director at the Sadc Plant Genetic Resource Center (SPGRC), told journalists and
scientists attending a


work
shop on agro
-
biotechnology in Lusaka, Zambia, that African plant species would disappear if GM
crops were planted in the country


as the plants would cross
-
pollinate.



The five
-
day agro
-
biotechnology workshop, which aims to bring together scientists and
journalists from
Eastern and Southern Africa to


share their experiences on biotechnology and the way forward concerning GM technology, ends today.
Zimbabwe stores about 1 800


of its indigenous crop seed varieties at the SPGRC situated in Lusaka, Zambia.



The SPGRC stores about 8 325 seed materials and 144 plant species collected from Sadc member
countries. The Sadc gene bank


stores mainly crop seed materials.



One of the fears expressed by environmentalists concerning the controversial GM technology
is that
farmers are likely to lose


indigenous plant species through out
-
crossing. There are concerns that GM plants may overpower
indigenous plants and there would


then be no indigenous biodiversity.



While there are fears that GM crops would pollinate

non
-
GM crops, pro
-
GM scientists say pollination is
however not synonymous with


GM crops but all plants out
-
cross when brought together.The Zimbabwe government recently accepted
consumption of GM food


because of the severity of the food situation but has

said it would not allow the planting of GM maize.



Zimbabwe is carrying out GM plant trials to study the technology before it makes a decision whether to
use it permanently. It has,


however, been said that even if the government has proposed to quarant
ine GM maize imports, GM seeds
may find their way into


fields illegally, resulting in the contamination of the country's maize plant species.



Nkomo said: "There are these issues of genetically modified organisms which despite not being experts,
we find

ourselves having to be


involved. Now plant genetic resources have become everybody's materials. As a consequence, we may
have to make drastic


changes to the centre to respond to the new technologies. The problem is we may not have the capacity to
protec
t our species."



Nkomo said new international laws on property rights, which were skewed in favour of Western
multinationals who were introducing


technologies in Africa, were also threatening Sadc biodiversityAs a result of these international laws,
bio
piracy had increased, with


Africa losing thousands of its indigenous species, which are being patented elsewhere in the West.